A Love Means... Story
Together for over ten years, Geoff and Eli built a fulfilling life. Their love and support helped raise their adopted son. Their hard work and dedication grew their farm from raising cattle and boarding horses to expanding into therapy riding sessions. Surrounded by a loving circle of friends, Geoff and Eli couldn’t ask for more. Until driven Eli loses his energy, and the doctor gives them the dire diagnosis of cancer.
Caught up in never-ending doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and treatments, their world turns upside down. With so many people dependent on them, they must pull together to put on a brave face, continue living as best they can, and care for their family. Geoff fears Eli, the love of his life, while a fighter, may not endure this battle, but neither is willing to consider succumbing as an option.
GEOFF LAUGHTON woke as he always had… with the dawn. He got out of his comfortable bed and half stumbled into the bathroom. He could very easily be a night person, but living on the family farm precluded that. Fourteen years ago he’d been living in Chicago and getting up at this time of the morning would have been unthinkable. Things had changed over the years in many amazingly wonderful ways that he could not have imagined way back then.
He got cleaned up and used the toilet before returning to the bedroom, still wearing only his boxers. Eli, his lover and partner for most of those same fourteen years, was still sound asleep. “Eli, honey,” Geoff coaxed gently as he walked around the bed to where Eli’s dark hair poked out of the white sheets, his head resting on the pillow.
“Geoff.” Eli sounded very dry and raspy, which told him something was wrong. Eli was always the first one up and so chipper and energetic it was almost scary… in the best way possible.
Geoff placed his hand on Eli’s forehead to check if he was warm. The only time Eli acted even remotely like this had been the few times over the years that he hadn’t felt well. That was rare—very rare. Eli was always as healthy as the barn full of horses they kept and cared for just across the yard. Eli didn’t feel particularly feverish to him. Geoff went back to the bathroom, filled a cup with water, and returned. Eli accepted the cup and drank most of it before lying back down. This was more than strange; this was unheard of. “Rest if you need to. I’ll get Jakey started on his chores.”
Eli sighed and sat up, slowly pushing away the covers as he turned toward the glowing red numbers on the clock. “I have to teach a class in an hour.” He yawned, and Geoff stepped back, worrying a little. This was so unlike Eli he wasn’t sure what to make of it. “I’m okay, just a little tired. I didn’t sleep well last night.” Eli sat on the side of the bed and then got to his feet before shuffling to the bathroom. After the door closed, Geoff pulled off his boxers and got fresh clothes, then pulled on clean underwear, comfortable jeans, and a light work shirt.
It was a spring Saturday, and that meant riding classes in the morning and a therapy-riding session in the afternoon, in addition to all the usual chores that had to be done. Eli managed that portion of their business and was a gifted riding teacher. Eli had been raised Amish, so he’d been around horses all his life, and he had an innate sense of what they needed. Geoff thought it uncanny sometimes.
By the time he was dressed, Eli had come out of the bathroom and begun dressing as well. Some of the slowness seemed to have vanished, but Geoff kept watching him. Inside, deep down, that little voice told him something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
“I’m okay,” Eli told him. “You don’t need to hover or watch me. I’m a little tired, that’s all. It happens.” Eli pulled on his jeans and then shuffled over to where Geoff was getting ready to leave the large master bedroom. Eli slipped his arms around his neck, his expression softening, and Geoff leaned in closer. They shared a kiss. It was more than a good-morning peck, but less than a “sweep you off your feet” smooch. But it was enough to trigger memories of the myriad kisses they had shared over the years.
“I worry sometimes,” Geoff whispered and closed his eyes, gently tugging Eli closer for another kiss. This time the kiss was deeper, more intense, only because Geoff needed the reassurance. A firm knock on the door broke them apart.
“Papa, Dad, Adelle says breakfast is on,” Jakey called through the door.
“Come in,” Eli said, and the door opened. Their son came in and closed the door so Grace wouldn’t follow him inside. Jakey’s young Great Dane liked to follow him everywhere. Geoff released Eli and grabbed Jakey, lifting him off his feet and spinning him into the air. Jakey giggled, forgetting himself just a little. At nine, Jakey was just reaching those in-between years when he wanted to be a teenager and tried to act grown up, but the young boy still hadn’t quite given up the ghost yet. Geoff knew it wouldn’t be long before he wouldn’t be able to play with him like this any longer. It made him feel old sometimes.
“Did you finish your homework last night?” Geoff asked, setting Jakey back on his feet. He knew the answer but wanted to hear it from his son.
“Most of it,” Jakey answered.
“Then you’ll have to do it tonight,” Eli said from in front of his closet, where he was pulling on his shirt. Geoff watched him for a few seconds. He’d always loved the way Eli moved. The man could have been a dancer, he was so graceful.
“I know,” Jakey said, sounding completely put-upon. He turned back to Geoff for sympathy, but got none. Eli had made a rule that homework came first, and that meant that Jakey was not allowed to leave any weekend homework for Sunday night. “I only have some math problems to do.” Jakey made a face and stuck out his tongue. “I hate math.” Geoff and Eli shared a quick look. They both knew why Jakey hated math and were working to try to fix that.
Jakey was bored. The teacher assigned pages and pages of problems for them to solve, and she always wanted them to show their work. The thing was, Jakey could do the problems in his head and get the correct answers. Using the slower method she required was incredibly frustrating, not only for Jakey, but for Geoff and Eli as well. They wanted Jakey to excel, not come to hate something he had an aptitude for.
“You do the problems, and I’ll talk to your teacher on Monday when I take you to school,” Eli said as he finished dressing. “Now go get your breakfast, and we’ll be out in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Jakey said, heading for the door. “Adelle made blueberry pancakes,” he added excitedly and then hurried out of the room.
“We better hurry if we want to get some for ourselves,” Geoff kidded. Blueberry pancakes were Jakey’s favorite breakfast item.
“I’ll be right there,” Eli told him.
Geoff put on his shoes and left the room.
Jakey was at the table, digging into a mound of pancakes like nobody’s business. Adelle stood at the griddle flipping pancakes that had the entire house smelling like blueberry, along with the scents of bacon and sausage she’d cooked earlier. In other words, it smelled of contentment and home. Geoff took his place, and Adelle brought him a plate. Her gaze lingered on him for a second. “Where’s Mr. Eli?” Despite all the years she’d been with them, that was as informal as she’d get. To Geoff, Adelle was family and she knew it. But she’d been trained as a housekeeper in the South, and those habits died hard.
“He was running a little late this morning,” Geoff answered with a yawn he tried but failed to stifle. Geoff was usually the last one up and ready. He looked at his plate and then at her. “Do you really expect me to eat all this?”
Adelle turned back to her stove. “I don’t know how to cook for just us,” she grumbled. “The house has never been this empty before.”
“Then we’ll have to invite some friends over so you can feed them,” Geoff quipped. She turned around and shook her spatula at him. Geoff knew the scowl was for show, and in two seconds it had morphed into a grin. There always seemed to be people staying in the house. Robbie, Geoff’s office manager, and Joey, his crop manager, had lived in the house for years. Other people had stayed with them when they needed a place. He and Eli had added on a master bedroom, bath, and sitting room that Jakey had used as a bedroom when he was young. Now he had his room upstairs along with Adelle, and the house seemed quiet.
“I don’t have to worry about that,” Adelle said, and on cue Geoff heard the back door open as Robbie and Joey came inside. “See?”
“What?” Robbie asked as he felt his way to the table.
“Nothing. We were just remarking at how empty the house feels sometimes.” Geoff took a bite of his breakfast as Eli came in and sat down at the table. Adelle brought plates for everyone. When she placed Robbie’s in front of him, she quietly explained where everything was, so he had points of reference. Robbie had gone blind as a young child, and Adelle had moved to the farm shortly after Robbie.
“What’s on the agenda for today?” Geoff asked Joey.
“I’m helping Eli with the therapy class this afternoon, and Robbie wanted to ride as well, so he’s going to join us. I figured this morning I’d check on how the planting is coming.” Joey put butter on his pancakes. “Every year it seems there’s more to do in less time.”
“Tell me about it,” Geoff agreed. “We need to get as much done as we can today because they’re calling for a good rain for the next few days.”
“It should be done. We’ve been working overtime,” Joey reassured him. He’d never let Geoff down, so he wasn’t worried. But in this business, there were many things that weren’t under your control, and Mother Nature could be cantankerous when she wanted to be. The rain would be beneficial if they got the seed in the ground, but it could also mean that any field not planted would need to dry out before they could get the tractors on it.
Geoff looked up as vehicle tires crunched on the gravel drive.
Joey ate faster, shoveling in the food, and then grabbed his coffee cup. He thanked Adelle and rushed outside. Soon the low rumble of tractor engines shook the floor slightly.
“I wanna go too. Pete lets me drive sometimes,” Jakey said.
“Not today,” Geoff said firmly. “You have stalls in the barn to clean and homework to finish, like Papa told you. You can go for a ride if you like once your chores are done, and it would be okay to ask your friends to come over this afternoon if they want to ride once the therapy session is over.”
Jakey grinned. “Cool.”
“But your chores and homework have to be done,” Eli said from the other end of the table. Jakey’s chores weren’t difficult. He had to water all the horses and sweep out the barn, and he was responsible for caring for his pony. Jakey ate faster and then carried his dishes to the sink before running up the stairs.
“It’s too early to call now,” Eli yelled after him.
“I know,” he called back. “I’m getting my boots.”
“They’re by the back door,” Eli said, and Jakey raced back through the kitchen and slid to a stop in his socks. He sat down on the mudroom step and pulled on his boots. “Don’t forget your jacket.”
Geoff shook his head as he heard Jakey rush out the back door. He watched out the window as Jakey raced across the yard to the barn.
“I wish I had his energy,” Robbie said.
“If we could bottle it, we could all retire,” Adelle said. She’d been using that word a lot lately, and while Geoff would hate to see her leave them, she most certainly deserved to retire.
“Is that what you want to do?” Eli asked.
“What, me? Sit on some porch with nothing to do?” she scoffed. “Though I could go to Florida and not have to freeze off what the good Lord gave me every winter. But that’s just a dream.”
“Come and sit down,” Geoff told her. “Fix yourself a plate.” He’d been meaning to have a talk with her. “You know when you started working here, we started a retirement fund for you.” Geoff was a trained accountant, and he did that for all the long-term employees. “So if you want to retire, that is an option.” He patted the chair across from Robbie. “But you know we consider you family and you’ll always have a home here.”
“But I’m not your family… I’m not blood at all.” She looked down at her hands.
“How long have you worked here? We’ve been working together for a long time now,” Geoff began, and Adelle nodded. “So you should know that being family, part of this family, isn’t anything to do with blood. We’ve made our own family, just like my father and Len did, and you’re part of it. You always have been. So if you want to retire and go to Florida, you can. But you better have a place big enough for family to come visit, because you’ll have a parade of visitors.”
Adelle’s brown eyes became wide as saucers and a toothy smile lit her wrinkled face. “Yeah, I guess I always knew, but it’s nice to hear.”
Eli stood up and carried his plate to the sink. “I’m going to check on what Jakey is doing before my students start arriving.” Eli left the room, and Geoff stopped eating, watching him go.
“He’s been eating like a bird lately,” Adelle commented. Geoff got up and checked Eli’s plate. He’d eaten one pancake and little else. “Been like that for the past week or so. I asked if he was sick, but he just says he’s fine.” She began to eat, and Geoff finished his breakfast. He waited until the others were finished and then helped Adelle clear the table. “You don’t have to do that,” Adelle scolded lightly. Geoff was stalling, and when Eli returned, he got his boots on as well and went out to the barn with him instead of into the office with Robbie.
“Geoff, I know you’re hovering,” Eli told him at the barn door. “I have things I have to get done, and you need to get rid of this notion that there’s something wrong. I’m a little tired, and once I’m done for the day I’ll be sure to go to bed early.”
“Fine. But tomorrow you’re taking the day off. There are no lessons scheduled. Jakey and I will do the barn chores, and you can put your feet up and rest.” They stepped into the barn, and Geoff closed the door and pulled Eli into his arms. “I’m worried, is all.” He held Eli and closed his eyes. Most of the happiest memories of his life involved the man he had in his arms, and his greatest fear was losing him. When Geoff’s father had died, he’d felt loss, but nothing compared to what Len had felt, and he never wanted to go through that.
“I’m just fine. A little tired, but….” Eli chuckled and Geoff hugged him tighter. Sometimes it was a miracle they all didn’t keel over. Operating a farm the size of theirs with thousands of head of cattle and as many acres under cultivation to provide feed for them made for a massive amount of work. Add in the horses and the operation was mind-boggling. Over the years, through careful acquisition, Geoff had become one of the biggest landowners in the county.
“Maybe we can see about bringing on some more help… or simplifying our organization. Maybe we prioritize and….” He hated to say let something go. What would they stop? The therapy riding? That service had helped countless children and adults over the years. The riding lessons? Eli loved that. But it also took a lot of time and effort. At one point they had brought someone in to help Adelle around the house, but when Beth had left, they hadn’t replaced her because Robbie and Joey had moved out into their own home. “I’m thinking we should find someone to work twenty hours a week in the barn. They can clean stalls, haul hay and feed, and do some of the general chores.”
“I have some students who work to help pay for lessons,” Eli said.
“I know. But they don’t do a good enough job all the time, and I’ve seen you redoing their work. I don’t want that. I would rather you had someone you could rely on.” They’d had someone like that on and off over the years. Joey had done that when he’d first started working there. They’d also had Tyrone for a while, but he’d moved on.
“Can we really afford it?”
“Yes. If it helps you, then yes.” No one was more important to him than Eli and Jakey. “Ask the men when you see them if they know of anyone. We could try the college as well, but it’s best if we find someone who already understands the kind of work that needs to be done.”
“Okay,” Eli agreed. “An extra hand would be a help.”
“Good. And you have to agree to tell me when you’re tired and doing too much. I don’t want you worn out.” Geoff had his workload pretty well regulated. He had good people with experience handling the key portions of the operation, and he’d put expansion plans on hold because they’d both been overwhelmed.
“I will,” Eli whispered.
“Papa, I got Strawberry’s stall cleaned out,” Jakey called.
“I’ll look at it and help him with the rest of his chores. You do what you need to.” Geoff knew Robbie would take care of what he could in the office. The rest could wait. He kissed Eli quickly and walked to Strawberry’s stall. Jakey had done a good job of clearing away the soiled bedding. They had him do that stall because it was the smallest and didn’t take too long. “Okay. That looks good.” He turned to smile at his son, resting his hand lightly on his shoulder. “I’ll bring in the sawdust, and you can spread it for him. Then you and I can feed and water all the horses.”
They got busy. Geoff hauled, and Jakey spread. Then Geoff helped him carry water and fill all the troughs. He also explained to Jakey how much hay each horse got, and they cleaned out mangers and refilled them with fresh hay.
“What else do I have to do, Dad?”
“You need to sweep the center aisle of the barn, and do a good job. Then you can go inside to finish your homework at the kitchen table. Once that’s done, you can call your friends.” Geoff checked around the barn. “When they’re over, you remember the rules?”
Jakey nodded seriously. “No playing around the horses. Stay out of the paddocks, and no one is to go up in the hayloft.” He paused. “And don’t let them ride Grace—she is not a pony.”
“Very good.” The last time they had been up in the loft, he’d found opened bales and piles of hay that had been used to make forts. That wasn’t going to happen again. “They can come over after Papa is done with his therapy riding, so you’ll need to ask him what time he thinks is good. But you have to have your homework done first. So the sooner you sweep and get it done, the sooner you can call your friends.” Geoff was firm with Jakey, though he always made sure chores and homework were rewarded in the end.
“I will, Dad,” Jakey said, rushing to the tack room. He came out with the broom and walked to the far end of the barn, then started to sweep with a vengeance. Geoff grinned at his energy and figured it was best to help him get some of it out constructively.
“And watch out for the horses as Papa’s students arrive.”
“I will,” Jakey said without looking up. He was heads-down sweeping. Geoff knew that would last about ten minutes, so he checked all the stalls, spot-cleaned the worst areas, and hauled out the mulch. The great thing about spring was that the horses spent more time outside, so there was less cleaning to do. By the time he was done, students had started arriving, and Jakey was reaching the front door of the barn. Geoff checked on his work and helped Jakey pick up the sweepings. They never just swept it outside. It was best to pick it up in case anything got swept up that shouldn’t be there. They had found tacks, bits of plastic, and other debris that was best gone forever and not tracked back inside.
“You did very well. Go see Robbie after your homework and he’ll pay you.” Geoff believed in paying Jakey for his work, just like everyone else who worked for him. His father had done the same, and it had helped Geoff learn the value of work. It also meant that as he got older he didn’t feel like an indentured servant, the way some of his classmates in school had. His work had been valued, just like Jakey’s was.
Jakey hurried to put the broom away and then ran toward the barn door.
“Jakey,” Geoff said, and he slowed to a walk without stopping. Once he was outside, he took off toward the house and immediately disappeared from sight.
Eli’s students began to arrive, and the barn filled with their voices as they saddled their horses. Geoff checked that Eli didn’t need anything before going to his office. The one thing about a farm was that the work was never done, even office work. There were books to be kept, herd records to be updated, invoices to pay, and money received and payments to follow up on, as well as plans to be developed and updated.
Jakey was at the kitchen table with his math book open, working on his problems, when Geoff came in. He looked over Jakey’s shoulders as he worked. Since Eli had freed him of the burden of showing his work, Jakey was filling in the answers one after the other, and they were all correct. They definitely needed to speak to his teacher. It didn’t take Jakey long before he held up the page for Geoff to look over. It looked good to him. He nodded, and Jakey closed his book and put it in his school pack.
Geoff went to his office. It wasn’t necessary for him to listen as Jakey called Mark and Juan to ask them over.
Robbie was busy working at his desk, headphones over his ears. Geoff knew he was listening as a computer voice guided him. There was also an embosser attached to the computer so Robbie could print out what he needed in Braille. He and Robbie had worked together for years, and Robbie had a real knack for coordination and detail. Most people, when they arranged for lessons or classes, had no idea that Robbie couldn’t see. Geoff went to his desk and got to work. He sent Robbie a message to tell him that Jakey would be in to be paid and how much. It seemed dumb to text when they were in the same room, but it allowed Robbie to stay focused, and he’d listen to it when he got a chance.
On weekends he tried to be done in the early afternoons so he would have time with the family. He’d been working about an hour when Jakey rushed in, breathless.
“Robbie has your money,” Geoff said.
“Daddy,” Jakey gasped. “Papa fell in the barn. Uncle Joey said to get you.”
“Is he hurt?” Geoff asked as he stood and came around the desk. Robbie had taken off his headphones and was listening.
“He fell and isn’t getting up,” Jakey said, and Geoff heard the panic in his voice.
Geoff told Robbie to call 911, then took Jakey by the hand, and they hurried out of the house together. As soon as they hit the yard, Jakey took off, and Geoff raced after him.
The moment he stepped into the barn, Geoff saw Eli on the floor. He was moving, thank God. Joey was next to him.
“I’m okay. I just got dizzy and….”
Geoff knelt next to him and cradled Eli in his arms. He was white as a sheet, and cold.
“Go get a blanket from the house,” he told Joey. “Robbie is already calling for help.”
Joey hurried away, and Geoff heard Jakey start to cry. He held Eli against him and put an arm around Jakey to try to comfort him.
“I’m okay,” Eli said, probably to both of them, but Geoff wasn’t buying it, and it seemed neither was Jakey. Joey returned and handed him a blanket. Geoff wrapped Eli in it and held him as Eli began to shiver. He wasn’t okay.
“Papa,” Jakey cried, and reached down to hug Eli as Geoff held them both.
“I’m going to be okay,” Eli whispered. “Daddy is going to help me go see the doctor.”
“Will you get a shot?” Jakey asked and rubbed his arm slightly.
“I don’t know.” Geoff felt a chill go through Eli. There was most definitely something wrong. This was no case of being tired or overworked. This was serious. “But if I do, I’ll make sure they give me a Band-Aid with Ninja Turtles on it, like the one you got.” Eli smiled. Geoff knew he was trying to make Jakey feel better but wasn’t sure it was working. Jakey clung to both of them. “I need you to be a big boy for me. Can you do that?”
Jakey stopped crying even as tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Good. Please go in the house and sit with Adelle. She’s going to be worried and will need you with her.”
“Yes. Go tell Adelle what happened and sit with her. Okay? Please. I need you to do that for me.”
“Okay,” Jakey said but he didn’t let go of either of them for a while. Then he stepped back, turned, and raced out of the barn. Geoff heard him calling for Adelle from outside.
In the distance Geoff heard sirens and hoped like hell help got here soon. Out in the country, emergency services could take a while. The fire departments mostly arrived in time to save the basement, and ambulances were often slower than driving to the hospital yourself. He’d begun to wonder if he’d made a mistake calling when the sirens got louder. A minute later an ambulance pulled into the drive.
“I’ll go tell them where you are,” Joey said and hurried out of the barn. He returned not long after with two emergency personnel carrying a gurney.
“What happened?” the first one asked as he knelt near Eli.
“I got dizzy and fell,” Eli answered.
“He’s also been shivering and seems weak. This hasn’t happened before that I know of.” Geoff turned to Eli, who shook his head.
“Okay,” the paramedic said and began working on Eli. Geoff helped the paramedics get Eli on the gurney and then reluctantly let Eli slip from his arms. While one paramedic took Eli’s blood pressure and pulse, the other asked him for personal and health information. Geoff answered all his questions without taking his eyes off his Eli. He couldn’t—his life and happiness rested on that gurney.
“We’re going to transport him,” the paramedic finally said.
Geoff nodded and watched as they secured Eli and wheeled him out of the barn, then carefully slid the gurney into the back of the ambulance. “We’ll be right behind you.” He stared as the EMT climbed in and the other closed the back and hurried around to climb in. The siren wailed, lights flashed, and the ambulance pulled out of the drive onto the road and screamed away.
Geoff’s knees nearly buckled right there.
“We need to let Robbie and Adelle know what’s going on, and then I’ll take you to the hospital,” Joey told him.
All Geoff could do was nod. He felt glued to the spot.
“Come on,” Joey said.
Somehow Geoff managed to move.
As soon as he was inside the house, he had a purpose and he got to it. Geoff explained to Adelle what had happened and where he was going. She agreed to stay with Jakey, as did Robbie. “I’ll hold down the fort here,” Robbie added. Geoff thanked him and went to their room, trying to think of what Eli might need. He packed a few basic things in a bag and carried it to the kitchen.
Jakey sat at the table his head in his hands. When he looked up at him, Geoff thought his heart would break right there. The fear alone in Jakey’s eyes was enough to bring tears to Geoff’s. He had to be strong not only for himself but for Jakey as well. “I’m going to go to the hospital. Uncle Joey is going to take me.”
“Can I come?” He was seconds away from tears.
“I don’t think so. But Adelle and Uncle Robbie are going to stay here with you, and I promise to call and will have Papa call you as soon as we can.” He hugged Jakey hard and did his best not to fall apart.
“I do. And as soon as I can, I’ll arrange for you to see Papa.” He didn’t let Jakey go. He needed Jakey just as much as Jakey needed him.
“Jakey, honey,” Adelle said gently. “I’m going to make a cake and I was wondering if you could help me.”
Jakey released him, and Adelle took his hand, leading Jakey toward the pantry. Geoff picked up the bag and hurried outside to Joey’s truck. He climbed in, and they pulled out of the drive and made the left turn from Sugar Grove Road onto Stiles, and from there they flew.
Geoff didn’t see the trees as they passed, nor the fields, his fields, that had been planted and were waiting for the promised rain. He saw nothing but his own worry reflected back at him in his distorted windshield reflection.
“Eli is going to be okay,” Joey reassured him.
Or at least he tried, and Geoff gave him credit for trying. He knew his anxiety was most likely his worry running away with him, so he took a deep breath, held it, and then released it slowly. He needed to think clearly and calmly so he could be there for Eli, and for Jakey, who was going to need him just as much if not more.
“I hope so,” Geoff said. It was the most he could muster.
They reached the highway and turned toward Ludington. Traffic was heavier and they could only go so fast. Every traffic signal was frustrating as hell, but eventually they pulled into the hospital drive. Joey let him off near the emergency entrance and went to park while Geoff hurried inside and up to the desk. “I’m here for Eli Henninger. He was brought in by ambulance a few minutes ago.”
“Yes. He’s being examined right now. Let me check to see what they’re doing. I’ll be right back.” She got up and walked through a doorway behind her. Geoff saw her speaking to a nurse, and he shifted from foot to foot. She returned and said, “I can take you back if you like.”
“Thanks.” Geoff turned and saw Joey coming through the doors. He took a second to explain what was going on.
“Don’t worry. I’ll wait out here until I hear from you,” Joey told him. “Just go check on Eli.” Geoff gave him as much of a smile as he could muster and then followed the lady back into the emergency area.
Eli was in a small alcove sectioned off from the bed next to him by a curtain. One of the paramedics who had been at the farm stood next to the bed. When Geoff approached, he moved toward him. “We told him you were coming, and I wanted to stay so he wasn’t alone.”
Geoff nodded, unable to speak at the small act of kindness. He blinked a few times and finally found his voice around the lump in his throat. “Thank you… for everything.”
“You’re welcome,” the paramedic said and then turned to leave. Once he was gone, Geoff realized he’d never gotten his name.
Geoff approached Eli and took his hand gently, as though he would break. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m still cold,” Eli said, breathing shallowly and quickly. “They said they would be right back.”
“It’s all right, you don’t have to talk. Just relax. I’m here with you, and I’ll stay the entire time.” He closed his eyes and concentrated on the feel of Eli’s hand in his. “You’re going to be just fine, I know that.”
The curtain that formed the outer wall was pushed aside and a woman and a man came in. “I’m Helen and I’m going to be your nurse. We just prepped a larger area and we’re going to move you there.” Geoff released Eli’s hand to make it easier on them. “It’s all right. You hold his hand all you want, Geoff.” He turned toward her, trying to place the face.
“It’s Carey now, but yes,” she said with a smile. “It’s been a while, but I’d recognize you anywhere.”
“I thought you left the area awhile back,” Geoff said as they prepped Eli.
“I did, then I met my husband and ended up moving back here.” She made sure Eli was covered and then signaled the orderly. The brake on the bed released with a thunk, and they slowly moved Eli along. It wasn’t far, just down the hall. The area was much larger, though, and they settled Eli in the center. Once the brake was set, Helen got to work. “We’re going to give you some oxygen to try to make your breathing easier.” She got a mask and settled it over Eli’s mouth and nose. “Just breathe normally and relax.” Eli nodded slightly and closed his eyes. “I’m going to put some sensors on your chest so we can monitor your heart. Then I’m going to start an IV. So just relax and I’ll be done as quickly as I can, and I promise to try not to hurt you.”
She went about her work, inserting the needle into Eli’s arm and getting the IV set up. She put the white disks on Eli’s chest and hooked wires to them before moving the machines near the bed.
“Do they have any idea what’s wrong?” Geoff asked her.
“Not yet. But don’t worry. The ER doctors here are stellar, and they’ll figure it out.” Helen pulled off the gloves she’d been wearing and threw them away. “Try not to worry. You’re in good hands.”
Geoff nodded. He wanted to believe that, but Eli was so pale, and he looked so small with everything hooked up to him. “Thank you.”
“It’s all right. I’ll be in and out, and if you need anything, just press the call button.” Helen settled the button near Eli’s hand. “Don’t try to talk—just nod if you understand,” she said to Eli, and he nodded slightly. “Good. Now relax and let the oxygen help you.” Helen left the room, and Geoff sat in the chair next to Eli’s bed.
He pulled out his phone and called Joey. “We’re going to be here a while at least,” he said when Joey answered.
“How is he?”
“They have him settled. That’s all I know right now.”
“Do you want me to stay?” Joey asked.
“No. I don’t think there’s any point. If you want to go back and take charge at the farm, I can call when we know something.”
“Okay. What do you want me to tell Jakey?”
“That his papa misses him, but he’s settled and resting. Tell him that I’ll call him soon.” Geoff hung up. Eli had closed his eyes and his breathing seemed less labored. Geoff leaned back in the chair and did his best to relax. They were going to be here a while, so he might as well get as comfortable as he could.
He watched Eli as he pressed a button on his phone to make another call. “Hey, Dad,” he said softly when Len answered. Len had been his father’s partner and was as much his dad as his father had been.
“Robbie called just a few minutes ago. How is he?” The concern came through in Len’s voice just as if he were in the room with him.
“Settled for now. We don’t really know anything at the moment. He collapsed in the barn. They said he was dehydrated, and they’ve given him oxygen to help him breathe. Other than that they’re apparently going to order some tests, but we haven’t found out any of the details yet. So mostly we’re waiting to see what happens.”
“Do you want us to come?” Len asked. He and Chris had retired to Florida a few years earlier. Len and Geoff’s father, Cliff, had been together for twenty years, then Cliff died. Len eventually met Chris and they had been happy together. Geoff now thought of Len as his dad.
“Not yet. Let’s wait to see how serious it is.” Geoff wanted to answer yes so badly it hurt. But there was no need to disrupt everyone’s life if what was wrong with Eli wasn’t serious. There were just too many unknowns at the moment.
“Okay. But we’ll be there. All you have to do is say the word.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Geoff whispered.
“I know everyone is telling you this, but try not to worry. There are many things that it could be, and letting your imagination run away with you isn’t going to help. You need to keep a clear head and be strong for Eli and Jakey as well as the rest of the family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You have a family that loves you and friends who adore you. Let them help.” Len paused. “The one thing I regret when your father was sick was listening to him and allowing him—no, helping him—to keep it from you. That was wrong of both of us. So don’t keep things from Jakey. He’s going to have a million questions and he needs to know the truth.”
“I understand, Dad, and I agree. Hopefully there will be nothing more to tell him other than that Papa is going to be okay.”
“That’s what we all hope.” Len paused again. “I know you have other calls to make and need to get back to Eli, but please keep us informed and let us know if we should come. Hell, maybe we’ll plan a trip in a few weeks regardless. It would be good to see all of you.”
“It would, Dad,” Geoff agreed. They talked for a few minutes more and then ended the call. Geoff put his phone back in his pocket, took Eli’s hand, and settled in to wait.
In the newest installment of the Love Means… series (one of my top faves, in case you didn’t know, lol) Eli is ill and when the diagnosis comes in, it leave Eli and Geoff reeling. Geoff lost his father to cancer in the very first Love Means… book, so this had him not only dealing with his fear for Eli—while trying to take care of their son, Jakey—but also dredged up all his past loss and pain from his father dying 14 years ago.
Love Means… Endurance is sweet yet powerful, painful yet hopeful, and all around wonderful. We see closure of a kind for some of Eli’s past, get to see how big their family is—because family is not who you are related to by blood, but who your heart connects with (something Eli needed to be reminded of, I think :) )—and you get to see just what’s important to these men and their lives. Work continues on the farm even as hospital visits, child fears, and love is tended.
This is a wonderful addition to the series and a sort of full circle, IMO. Love in sickness and in health is the oath in marriage, and while there’s no legal wedding, it’s still the guiding heart of these two wonderful men. I loved every minute of this story, even as I wanted to beat Andrew for putting my boys through the ringer… again!
Thank you, Mr. Grey for such a wonderful read (and re-read, as I’ve already reread it once, lol). I’ve always wished I had an Eli of my own… now I have to want a Geoff of my own too. ;)
If you love tender romance, heart-wrenching trials, and all that is wonderful about love, then this is a MUST READ! Run and grab your copy today.
This story is such a wonderful mixture of sadness , pain, love, endurance like the title implies, healing and a family so strong, even though they are an extended family in love and friendship, that nothing cannot be overcome. I needed tissues a few times. Got angry on Eli's behalf several times and felt the love between he and Geoff through out the entire book. Jakey was a typical 9 year old yet in some ways wise beyond his years.Then he'd turn to a child again, scared and in fear for what might happen to his Papa. I have enjoyed every book in this series and look forward to what Andrew comes up with next. As I am a die hard NASCAR fan, I truly appreciate the reference..lol I so enjoy a heart felt and enthusiastic "Gentlemen start your engines!" Best part of the race for me.
A great story to finish the series with. Keep your tissues handy and enjoy getting back down on the farm with the guy's. You can't go wrong with a Andrew Grey book.
OMG!!!! I cried all the way through this book. The story of the love Eli and Geoff have for one another is timeless. The battle and diagnosis of cancer brings forth so many doubts and insecurities. It is truly a test of the family they have built on the farm and everyone standing by them helping to get through the endless treatments and keep up with the chores.
Can Eli finally let go of the family he left behind and live for the family he has chosen? Can Geoff accept the help of others and realize Eli can survive his treatments? Can they both help Jakey understand it all and continue to stand strong to move into the future? An absolute must read!!!!!!!
At first I didn’t want to read this story because it most likely marked the end of something that has been in my life for a few years. I have gotten to know Len’s family, let’s face it, it really all started with Len. He’s the one that helped save the Laughton Farm, the place where all of these wonderful characters received second chances, learned to love, healed, and was able to grow. Len was instrumental in raising Geoff to the man he is now. Teaching him compassion, how to love and not to discriminate and to just be himself.
Geoff took those lessons and opened his home to people who needed guidance and a place to call home. Those people became his family who had his back as he had theirs. One man in particular he gave a home to became the most special to him. Eli, a young Amish man finding his way in the new world, had become the love of his life and the heart and glue of the farm.
That leads to this story, the glue that is Eli. When Eli falls ill, the entire family pitches in and becomes the support Eli and Geoff need to get through this. Cancer is a scary thing and not all get lucky and beat it.
Now with that being said, this IS an Andrew Grey book. We know he wouldn’t be that cruel as to kill off one of the most beloved characters. He did make it challenging for Eli and Geoff though and let us not forget Jakey. Their son received a lesson about life and how it’s not always fair or going to be there.
As this one saddens me the most, mainly because what it might represent, it is my favorite of all of them. It was a family reunion of sorts, even if it was because of a bad situation. I got a glimpse into the lives of former characters and how they are doing.
That actually brings me to a point I want to make.
I love this book so much.
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